In coastal Syria, assassination rates have escalated among senior officers over the past two months, amidst wide uncertainty and secrecy concerning who is carrying out these assassinations.
A few days ago, pro-regime media pages mourned two officers, one of them a colonel, who were killed in the Lattakia and Tartous governorates under mysterious circumstances.
Sources told Syria TV that civilians found Bassam Rasho, 49, vice president of the Agricultural Association in the Lattakia governorate and a retired officer, killed by a local resident for unknown reasons. The sources explained that the assassination took place in the village of Brabshabo in rural Lattakia.
Pro-regime colonel Abdul Majid Suleiman Habous, 58, alias “Abu Ghaffar,” was also mourned in the village of Hammam Wasel in Baniyas district, in rural Tartous.
Meanwhile, the Lattakia News Network reported that Brigadier-General Aktham al-Hussein, who hails from the village of Sindiana Ain Hafad in the rural Tartous’ Safita area, had died of “medical complications.”Several sources said that the brigadier had in fact died after being shot by unknown gunmen in rural Tartous, and was not ill.
Brigadier General Hussein is the commander of the 5th Corps’s 2nd Brigade, which is directly backed by Russia.
In the same period, regime supporters mourned The Republican Guard’s Brigadier-General Rajab Muhanna, who served as a field commander on battlefronts in rural Aleppo, Damascus, and Ghouta. He originally comes from rural Lattakia.
Other pro-regime pages mourned Colonel Ali Salman Ali who hails from the village of al-Jubeibat al-Gharbiyat, near Jableh.
In the same vein, loyalists on the coast mourned Colonel Saer Ghassan Sebihi who hails from the Hemeimeem village in rural Jableh, indicating that he had died from COVID-19.
Lattakia has witnessed the assassination of prominent figures and officers over the past few years, most notably Lattakia’s National Defense Forces commander, Hilal al-Assad, one of Bashar al-Assad’s cousins, in mysterious circumstances.
Lattakia also witnessed the killing of Brigadier-General Ali Hamed Makhlouf, director of the Officer’s Club for Lattakia city. Makhlouf is related to the cousin of regime president Rami Makhlouf.
In July, paratrooper Hassan Mahmoud Hassan was killed on his return from Deir-ez-Zor to his village of Qardaha in mysterious circumstances as well.
Why are the assassinations happening?
On the reasons for the escalation of assassinations, media activist in Lattakia Abu Youssef Jablawi told Syria TV: “Most of those who were recently murdered on the Syrian coast were killed in similar ways.” Jablawi indicated that most of the victims were assassinated through planned traffic accidents or bullets. He noted that this phenomenon has worsened dramatically and has started to pose many questions about its causes.
The activist added that the regime has imposed a great deal of secrecy over the assassinations, focusing on showing that the deaths arose from benign causes. Many local outlets reported that, for some officers, the circumstances of their murder remained completely unknown.
According to the activist, what is happening is a continuous series of liquidations that are being sought by the authorities and some of the dead officers who enjoyed considerable influence in coastal Syria. This applies especially to Brigadier-General Hussein, who was responsible for recruiting young men to the Fifth Corps in the region.
Jablawi did not rule out the notion that the assassination of officers in Syria was part of a wider conflict between the pro-Iranian regime and Russia.
Russia dominates the scene
Tayseer Ghazal, a defected officer from the regime’s forces, told Syria TV that the assassination of prominent regime officers was not limited to coastal Syria but affected other regions.
The officer, who comes from Lattakia, indicated that both Russia and Iran want to control the Syrian Army’s structure and exclude officers and commanders who are not cooperating with them. The officer identified this motive as the primary reason for the assassinations that we are witnessing.
The officer added that the conflict is currently concentrated between the Iranian-backed 4th Division, led by the brother of regime president Maher al-Assad, and the Fifth Corps, which represents Russia alongside several other brigades.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.